De Niro takes on Robert Mueller, grilling Stiller's Michael Cohen with plenty of "Meet the Parents" callbacks.
While John Mulaney is a prominent stand-up comic and even had his own short-lived eponymous sitcom, his biggest successes came as a writer for "Saturday Night Live" over the past five years, which makes his appearance as host an interesting one. He did get some surprise support from Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller and Nasim Pedrad throughout the night.
A capable performer, and someone who has showed up sporadically -- primarily on "Weekend Update" -- Mulaney has an off-kilter sense of humor, and that shone through brightly throughout the night. A lot of the sketches were more odd than hilarious, but there were definitely moments of laughter throughout, including an elaborate sketch that had Pete Davidson almost literally rolling on the ground.
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Cold Open and the regular "Weekend Update" segments. We'll skip the musical guests, because they're not usually funny -- unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
Student Walk Out
This sketch was purely juvenile humor as a high school walkout kicks off mere moments after Melissa Villasenor rubbed John Mulaney's shoulder. Suddenly, he was most definitely not eager to stand up, for obvious hormonal teen male reasons. The classroom turned into a debate on gun violence, with Kate McKinnon as the voice of Sweden (no guns, no violence, no sunlight) and Alex Moffat representing gun supporters but the sketch was a real missed opportunity to explore a serious topic, with no real depth in the satire angle and no really clever takes on John's condition, either. So in the end, it was just a huge missed opportunity.
With the TV revival era in full swing, John Mulaney was the creator of the 1980s hit "Switcheroo," about a boy and his father who switched bodies. The show proved unpopular because the creators focused solely on the sexual aspect of the son in Beck Bennett's body having sex with wife Heidi Gardner. And that growing discomfort was the focus of Cecily Strong's interviewer as well. And again, it felt like a sketch that had a chance to get funny in a provocative and challenging way, but never really got there. Instead, it just settled for weird.
MONOLOGUE: John Mulaney
Introduced as "John Mulvaney" for some reason, John made no mention of the flub, instead coming out to do a typical stand-up routine. He even brought out a microphone so he'd feel like he was on stage at some dive comedy club. He talked about random things like his own insecuritie, the building of a gazebo during the Civil War, waving at ships and proving to robots that you're not a robot. It was all so random, but had at least a few chuckles, so there's that. Mulaney is a very particular kind of comedian, so you're either into it or you're not... and it kind of set the tone for the sketches on the night, as well.
Luke Null had horn implants and tried to explain to his girlfriend, Heidi Gardner, why he wanted to get them removed. It all went down in front of John Mulaney as a doctor who was horrified to find out about other modifications. "Your calves are an open wound?" He asked at one point. Heidi was both very dumb and very concerned about this procedure, but really the sketch was about the other crazy things they'd had done, like Luke's butthole zipper and Heidi's butt cheeks removed. So yeah, it was weird, but at least everyone was committed to these outrageous characters, which kind of made the madness work.
The Real Intros of Reality Hills
Who really wants to watch the actual shows on Bravo? How about a show that is just the intros to their trashy reality shows, so you just get to meet one outrageous character after another. It was so over-the-top, it kind of felt like maybe this was a real thing on Bravo ... or that it would be soon enough. And we're totally here for John Mulaney's bitchy twins. He got to throw a drink in his own face on a fake Bravo show. #GOALS
John Mulaney was the drag waitress for Pete Davidson, Cecily Strong, Alex Moffat and Aidy Bryant, and she was sassy and bitchy and fun, until she turned her attention to Alex. "You've never worked for anything in your life," John said as the music changed. "You've had everything handed to you." Turned out she used to work for him and he was mean to her over a lunch order once, so this was her revenge plan. She insulted him... and then had to serve him again. The whole thing was pretty weird, but there were some good jabs in there and we totally love that the revenge plan was both elaborate and not very good.
"Donald Trump has had a really, really tough week," Michael Che admitted. "But you know what? I'm still gonna make fun of him." He and Colin Jost then proceeded to tear into Trump over the attack on Syria and James Comey's book.
They also explored the Oklahoma teacher who took advantage of the walkout to have sex with a student -- but she had to buy her own supplies (condoms) -- as well as Bill Cosby's retrial and Mark Zuckerberg's blink-less testimony before Congress. Plus, we got to see what happens when Colin doesn't think the camera cut back to him just yet.
Kate McKinnon then dropped by as Laura Ingraham to talk about the advertiser boycott her show has experienced since she mocked Parkland Mass Shooting survivor David Hogg on social media. So she introduced some of her new sponsors, like Carl's Sr. and YourPillow, before lamenting that the First Amendment didn't protect her right to bully without being bullied in return.
Kenan Thompson returned as LaVar Ball to make up lies about his son Lonzo's rookie season, which was just okay. Kenan's LaVar is so over-the-top and ridiculous, always hustling with a new harebrained scheme, you can't help but laugh at him. This time he talked about starting his own basketball league and selling terrible sandals that will tear up your heels. At least he believes his own hype.
COLD OPEN - Department of Justice
After a brief opening segment to set things up with Kate McKinnon's Jeff Sessions and Beck Bennett's Mike Pence worrying about the FBI, in walked Ben Stiller as Michael Cohen. "This whole raid was a violation of attorney-criminal privilege!" he lamented, before being directed to the office of Robert Mueller (Robert De Niro) for a chat. Robert and Ben had a lot of fun with callbacks to "Meet the Parents" as Cohen was strapped to a lie detector test. The sketch itself was more fun for seeing them together than any particular jokes.
Apparently ordering the lobster at a diner creates a ridiculous parody of "Les Miserables," with Kenan Thompson as a lobster lamenting that he must die by being boiled alive. In fact, it turned into a whole parody production, with Chris Redd more and more horrified that Pete Davidson was still down to eat that singing lobster. But the ridiculousness of the whole thing -- which came to include almost the entire cast -- was too much for several of them to handle without laughing. In their defense, it was pretty funny stuff.
Wild Wild Country
Former cast-member Nasim Pedrad returned for this parody segment of Netflix' documentary about the cult formed in Oregon. The clip featured passionate interviews with former members about the love and community they felt being a part of it, and equally passionate derision from the local townsfolk. And then Kenan Thompson joined in. "Me? I joined for the ass!" he laughed. The entire thing was a serious presentation juxtaposed with the horndog shenanigans of Kenan and his obsession with all the free love available. It was fun seeing so much of the cast in old makeup for the interview segments, and then as themselves in another era.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
For the first time since we started tracking "Player of the Week," we have a back-to-back champion. Mulaney and the writers did a great job of spreading the love and support across the cast this week, with virtually everyone getting at least one prominent speaking role. But it was Kenan Thompson who brought the magic in the top two sketches of the night, as a sex-crazed cult-member and a singing lobster. We also got his hilarious LaVar Ball impression during "Weekend Update," and suddenly it feels like Kenan has been rejuvenated on this show. When he's on his game, he's so engaging and watchable, I find myself wondering how long he'll want to continue doing this. He seems to be having fun still, so why not ride his longevity record into the ground?
"Saturday Night Live" returns May 5 with host Donald Glover and musical guest Childish Gambino (that's the same person, y'all!), airing live coast-to-coast at 11:35 p.m ET/8:35 p.m. PT.